Koi hobbyists throughout the world would attest to Japanese koi as a beautiful addition to any pond. They can provide a stunning visual element while contributing to a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that is perfect for relaxation and enjoyment. Japanese koi, specifically, are known for their beauty and grace as they are prized for their unique colors and patterns. Koi can grow to be quite large and, when cared for properly, can live up to 20 years, making them a long-term investment for homeowners looking to enhance their outdoor living space.
Therefore, pond contractors who specialize in koi ponds have a unique opportunity to upsell Japanese koi to their customers. By educating customers about the benefits of adding koi to their pond, constructing or reconstructing a pond suitable for larger koi, or even introducing customers to the hobby in general, pond contractors have a unique opportunity to increase sales while simultaneously providing customers with a beautiful outdoor living space and access to the koi hobby.
What some new pond owners may not know is that the size of a pond significantly matters when considering how many koi one may want to accommodate.
It is often said that a pond owner will build three ponds in their life. The first koi pond might take the form of a small pond with basic filtration and aeration systems, where they learn about specific requirements and basic care of koi fish, such as understanding koi behavior, feeding and maintaining water quality. After gaining experience and knowledge from the first pond, many koi owners may feel the desire to upgrade their pond to better accommodate their koi and enhance their overall experience. The second koi pond a hobbyist builds may be larger, with improved filtration, better water circulation and more advanced features such as UV sterilizers or bottom drains. Finally, the third koi pond is a reflection of the hobbyist gathering significant expertise in koi keeping and pond design.
This pond may feature a larger and more elaborate setup that optimizes the health and growth of koi. It may include advanced filtration systems, dedicated quarantine areas and specific design elements such as a glass viewing window for showcasing the beauty of their prized koi.
This symbolic process represents that pond and koi ownership is a hobby that encompasses varying levels of interest and expertise. Each pond built offers an opportunity to refine techniques, address challenges and create an ideal environment for the koi. Pond contractors who recognize this as well as which phase a customer is in have the potential to educate and influence their customers while also capitalizing on sales opportunities to enhance their own business.
Determining Pond Size
When it comes to providing the appropriately sized environment to accommodate koi, the recommended size of a pond depends on a few factors, including size and growth potential of the koi, their age and the desired water quality and conditions for their well-being. Some general guidelines to consider would be to provide at least 250 gallons of water for a single adult koi fish. This estimate assumes that the koi are of average size, but it doesn’t account for additional factors like filtration, aeration and other pond inhabitants. This, as well as depth, surface area and filtration, may need to be considered for more elaborate pond setups.
Koi hobbyists love their koi and typically desire an environment that will accommodate them best. Therefore, as a pond contractor looking to utilize koi as an upselling feature, being able to educate the customer on koi health and care and how the pondscape may better serve the koi, while also providing the services and equipment needed, will set you aside from other pond contractors in the industry.
One of the benefits of adding Japanese koi to a pond is that they can actually help to keep the water clean and, in turn, help to reduce the amount of maintenance required to keep the pond clean. Koi are natural scavengers, and they will eat algae, unwanted plant matter and other debris that can accumulate in a pond, helping to create a balanced ecosystem in the pond.
Koi are also known to eat mosquito larvae, which can help reduce the population of these pesky insects in and around the pond, making a pond owner’s outdoor living space that much more enjoyable. In addition, many people find watching koi swimming around in a pond to be a relaxing and soothing experience, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Koi can also be a great way to teach children about the natural world, including topics such as animal behavior, biology and ecology. Finally, koi have a wonderful aesthetic appeal, as they are known for their beautiful colors and patterns.
Oftentimes koi are referred to as “living art,” and for the serious or high-end hobbyist, their pond will house their koi collection. At the elite end of the hobby, hobbyists will be in search for a specific koi breed or variety that has specific patterns to add to their overall collection. As a contractor, understanding the benefits of koi as well as the varying levels that the hobby has to offer clients can aid as a way to generate sales with koi. Understanding where a customer is within the hobby — whether they are just starting out by adding koi, or they are at the elite end — will allow you better determine the service or sale that would be most applicable and desirable while also acting as their connection to access beautiful Japanese koi.
Why Japanese Koi?
As opposed to domestic koi, Japanese koi are often considered to be of higher quality and value for a number of reasons. First, koi have a long and rich history in Japanese culture and are highly valued as symbols of good fortune, perseverance and strength. Because of their cultural significance, Japanese koi breeders value the quality of the koi that they are able to produce and are known for their rigorous quality control standards, which ensure that only the healthiest and most beautiful koi are selected for sale. Some of these quality control standards include water-quality management, health monitoring and quarantine, breeding facilities, selective breeding, bloodline documentation as well as grading and auctions.
For the breeders, the health of their fish is prioritized above all else, and an extreme emphasis is placed on water quality and health protocols. Due to the fact that water quality is crucial in breeding healthy koi, Japanese koi breeders monitor and maintain specific water parameters such as temperature, pH, ammonia levels and oxygen levels to provide a healthy and conducive environment for the koi.
Advanced filtration systems, regular water testing and water change schedules are typically implemented to ensure optimal water quality. In addition, koi breeders in Japan implement strict health monitoring protocols, including regular check-ups, disease prevention measures, and quarantine procedures for new fish. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and maintains the overall well-being of the koi population.
Japanese Koi Breeding Basics
Japanese koi breeders also keep very detailed records of the lineage and pedigree of their koi. The bloodline documentation ensures traceability and allows breeders to maintain and track the genetic history of their koi strains, which ensures the purity and integrity of the breeding stock. In addition, many breeders practice selective breeding, meaning that they meticulously choose parent koi with desirable traits, such as body shape, pattern, coloration and finnage, to produce offspring with superior qualities.
In addition, koi breeders in Japan maintain specialized facilities designed to provide optimal conditions for koi breeding. These facilities often include multiple ponds with varying water parameters, temperature control systems and advanced filtration to maintain water quality. They also include mud ponds in the mountains of Niigata, where they allow the koi to grow out over the course of the spring and summer.
Finally, koi breeders often participate in koi shows as well as grading and auction events, such as the famous Niigata Koi Auctions in Japan. During these events, koi are assessed, categorized and evaluated by professional judges. These auctions and grading systems help maintain high standards and provide a platform for showcasing and acquiring top-quality koi.
The dedication to maintaining high standards, meticulous breeding practices and attention to detail contribute to the reputation of Japanese koi as some of the finest in the world. Pond contractors who are interested in adding koi sales to their business should have an understanding of the difference between Japanese and domestic koi and make an educated decision on how they wish to proceed.
About the Author
Brian Fitzsimmons is the founder of Fitz’s Fish Ponds with three locations in New Jersey. He started the company in 2008 and now proudly operates a company of 50+ Team members. Fitz’s Fish Ponds designs, builds and services ponds, waterfalls and all other water features.
Watch for part two of this article in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue!